2. Inventory and Evaluate Your Property

Work with a forester to inventory and evaluate your property. Begin by accurately locating your property boundaries and marking them with a fence, paint marks on trees, rock piles, stakes, or other means. Clear brush from your property lines to avoid trespassing when you or your neighbors carry out forestry practices. If the boundaries are not clearly identifiable, you may want to have your land surveyed.

Gather historical facts concerning previous land use or management activities that could have influenced the development of your woodland. Such activities might include livestock grazing, agricultural cropping, timber harvesting, tree planting, fires, and pest outbreaks. Foresters use information about these events and their timing to analyze the development of existing woodlands and to predict the results of future management practices.

A written woodland stewardship plan may include these components:

Aerial photographs are especially helpful as a foundation for the map (Figure 1-2). They usually are available from local offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or from your state forestry agency.

If the property is large and hilly, topographic maps may help you assess slope and aspect as they relate to woodland access and tree growth (Figure 1-3). Topographic maps are available from the U.S. Geological Survey, but also may be available online or sold on CDs and DVDs at outdoor stores.

Figure 1-1. A base map shows land uses.

Figure 1-2. An aerial photograph helps identify land uses.

Figure 1-3. A topographic map shows elevation changes, roads, buildings, and other features.

Figure 1-4. A soil type map.

Table 1-1. Typical soil interpretation for woodland management.

Figure 1-5. A timber stand map and description.

More detailed descriptions of some timber inventory procedures are presented in Chapter 2: Conducting a Woodland Inventory.

Your woodland may be just one piece of a large forested landscape, but the cumulative effects of the management decisions you and other landowners make can greatly alter the forested landscape over time. Identify land uses on adjoining property and find out what plans your neighbors have for managing their land. This will help you to evaluate the potential impact of your woodland management activities on the whole forested landscape. Coordination among neighbors can produce a forested landscape that meets individual landowner objectives without adversely affecting the environment.